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Aluminum Hull Repairs and More

jonboatHow to Fix a Leaking Seam or Rivet on Aluminum Boat

As aluminum boats age they show various signs of wear and tear. One of these signs may be a leaking seam or rivet. Over time, rivets can stretched and loosen, causing a gap in the hull integrity and this results in a leak. The solution to this problem is fairly simple and may be fixed at home using just a few tools and know-how. So, how should this problem be addressed?

Locate the Leaking Rivet or Seam

The first step is to find the exact seam or rivet that needs repair. To do this, put the boat in water and observe carefully. You could also put water inside the boat and see where it allows the water to escape from.

Assess the Damage

The second step is assessing the extent of damage to the rivet or seam. If the seam is too wide to be filled or caulked, it will need additional rivets in combination with a sealant product. If the damage is easily visible a sealant or caulk will be sufficient.

Choose a Sealant or Epoxy Product

There are hundreds of products out there that claim to fix leaks and seal cracks. How do you know which to choose? The Bottom Paint Store has done most of the hard work for you and can confidently recommend 3 products that really work.

Hawk Epoxy KitHawk Epoxy is an excellent product to repair aluminum hulls. We recommend getting one of the Hawk Epoxy Kits that will contain everything you need for filling in the aluminum. Hawk Epoxy is a versatile product that can be used for many other application too. Everyone should own this kit!

The second is BoatLife’s LifeCalk Sealant. This sealant may take a long time to cure (1 to 3 days), but it results in a waterproof, rubber seal that will adhere to almost anything. It can also be applied underwater for emergency repairs!

The third option is G/Flex 650 Epoxy made by West System. This liquid epoxy is more flexible and versatile than regular epoxies and will adhere to almost any surface. The bond that it creates can absorb shock, vibration, expansions and contractions. It will fully cure in 24 hours. Also, West System has created a detailed and comprehensive set of instructions for a wide variety of applications. They can be found at this link and below:

G Flex Epoxy by West SystemFix leaking seams and rivets

Patch holes in aluminum hulls

Repair pitted or pin holed surfaces

If your hull is bare aluminum you can cover the entire surface with a high build epoxy primer to help seal and protect it such as Tuff Stuff. For application details see our link for application of a marine epoxy.

Now that your leaky rivets and seams have been repaired, you are ready to paint! Check out this How To Article for more information on how to paint your aluminum vessel.

 

Which Resin Should I Choose?

Choosing the right resin depends on the type of project you are tackling. Listed below are the most common types of resins are their intended uses:

General Purpose Repair Epoxy Resin Kit

Hawk Epoxy KitEvery household should own a Hawk Epoxy Kit like this. You can use it to repair anything around your home or own your boat. This kit comes with the resin, catalyst and your choice of filler. Just mix them together and you have an excellent bonding, filling, or adhesive paste.

Polyester Resin:

MARINE ResinPolyester resins are unsaturated resins that are combined with hardeners, such as MEKP.

Polyester resin is used more for fiberglass lay-up or if you’re going to finish a repair with gelcoat, as the polyester resin will bond to the gelcoat better than epoxy.

Vinyl Ester Resin:

Vinyl ester resins are formulated with a base of polyester resin strengthened with epoxy molecules (a hybrid form of polyester and epoxy) and also use peroxides, such as MEKP, for hardening. These are cheaper than epoxy resins and more expensive than polyester.

Vinyl esters are more tolerant of stretching, less likely to show stress cracking and more resistant to water penetration. Vinyl ester is the choice when improved resistance to moisture is the goal (like repairing a blistered hull).

Long term water exposure (hull or water tank) or if impact resistance is important vinyl ester is usually chosen.

Epoxy Resin:

Epoxy ResinEpoxy resins are cured with the addition of a hardener. Unlike the polyester and vinyl ester resins, cured with a small amount of catalyst, epoxy resins usually require a lot more, often 1:1 or 2:1. A epoxy resin is the most expensive of these.

Epoxy resin has the best bonding strength as it will bond dissimilar or already cured materials for strong, reliable repair work. This is the most expensive resin but offers the most in its ability to flex, prevent delamination and ease of repair work.

If doing a repair and not overlaying with gelcoat then the epoxy will perform best as it tends to act as a stronger “glue” for the patch to the surrounding surface.

Epoxy Resin (Bar Top Epoxy Resin):

A Premium Commercial Grade Clear Epoxy Resin – Klear Kote Epoxy Resin is used extensively in coating surfaces and in table tops where a clear, hard and durable coating is required. Commonly seen on bar tops and restaurant tables. Easy to use 1:1 mixing ratio of resin and hardener.  Items coated with it will become permanently preserved and protected for your enjoyment throughout a lifetime. The epoxy resin will not exhibit blushing or sweat out under high humidity conditions.